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ICC Note:         

Many Iraqis, especially religious minorities, who fled Mosul do not want to return. The fight for Mosul destroyed homes, businesses, schools, often leveling several blocks. However, buildings weren’t the only thing destroyed, a shared sense of community has been lost. Mosul was once a melting pot of ethnic and religious diversity, now fear of attacks has heightened tensions, deepening sectarianism in the area. It could take as little as five years for Mosul to be rebuilt and the Iraqi state cannot guarantee safety so many have decided to leave Iraq altogether.      

07/14/2017 Iraq (The New Yorker) – For three years, Lena Kandes and her family lived under ISIS rule in Mosul. Sequestered in her home after being forced to abandon her university studies, she created an online alias—which she asked me to use—so she could connect with the outside world but not be traceable by the Islamic State’s goons. “We were prisoners there,” she told me earlier this year in Kurdistan, where her family had fled. “We got close to losing our minds.” Through a window, she watched a crowd stone to death a woman suspected of adultery. Kandes felt especially vulnerable because her father had been a contractor for the U.S. military. They had hosted U.S. Army officers at their home.

“My father hid the whole time ISIS was in Mosul,” she said. “We changed his look and burned papers, in the garden, showing that he had worked with the U.S. Army.” ISIS tried to recruit her sixteen-year-old brother, the youngest of her siblings, to be a “warrior of God” and a hero. “We knew from the things he said, the way he was acting,” she told me. “My mother told him that she’d raised him never to be like this.” The family bought video games from the underground, to divert his attention.

Last October, Iraq launched an offensive to liberate its second-largest city. “We were praying and waiting—and waiting,” Kandes said. As the battles raged, often block by block, her home lost power, then water. “We were so cold,” she said. “We were running out of strength.” In December, Kandes’s street became the front line between ISIS and Iraq’s élite counterterrorism force. “Our kitchen was full of bullets, the windows were all broken,” she told me. “Then ISIS came and said, ‘This is a war zone and we want to use your house.’ We were sure, ninety per cent, that we would die. So many died in our area.”

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